In case you forgot just how many rock bands got their start in the nineties or how many of the songs from that time have woven their way into your memories, the Gen-X Summer Tour is here to remind you about a few of those bands. Wait, the 90’s were how long ago? I swear it feels like only ten years or so ago these bands were releasing their first albums.
This little over two month long summer tour started on the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage at the World’s Largest Music Festival, Summerfest, in Milwaukee, WI. For a Thursday afternoon, plenty of people made it a point to leave work early, take the day off or just play hooky so they could relive their youth, their high school days, their early 20’s or just relish in a time that represented less stress.
Alien Ant Farm kicked off the afternoon and their set was an excellent taste of what this tour is bringing to fans this summer. Their 55-minute set started off upbeat and quickly grabbed the attention of the audience. If anyone was trying to remember which AAF was their fave, Movies from 2001 surely made the list. Before These Days, lead singer, Dryden Mitchell asked if anyone remembered the video that showed the band playing on a roof as they crashed the BET Awards. They changed things up a bit with the reggae sounding Never Meant and bassist Timmy Peugh took full advantage of his side of the stage throughout their entire set. Whether he was making faces and sticking his tongue out at the crowd or interacting with drummer, Mike Cosgrove, his colored bass strings weren’t the only thing to stand out.
Dryden noted it was the first day of the tour and also thanked everyone for their time and energy. The back half of their set was full of songs from 2001’s Anthology including Wish and Attitude. The latter Dryden shared was both his mother’s and Chester Bennington’s [Linkin Park] favorite AAF song. Dryden played guitar on truAnt track, Glow, alongside Terry Corso and it was a welcomed compliment. The end of the set included Courage and Sticks and Stones and had as much energy as the beginning. Dryden once again spoke to the crowd, “Thank you for making our first day a good one. A great one in fact.” Of course, the crowd was waiting for the most notable cover from the band, Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. With those opening notes, the crowd showed their excitement.
Show of hands from the people who remember the band, Lit. You know that one song, and more, but we’ll save that for the end of this review. The band is also well known for bothers A. Jay (vocals) and Jeremy Popoff (guitar/vocals). Possibly to give a little taste into the band’s latest musical direction, they opened with a cover of Tom Petty’s, American Girl. I was a little caught off guard that they were opening with a cover, but they nailed it. This really is one of the greatest sing along songs out there.
Their 75-minute set had variety and zig-zagged between older and newer songs. The first song from their latest release, These Are The Days, was a slower, easy-going, Someday Maybe. This lead to Good Problem To Have and the crowd really reacted positively to the good-time vibe of the song. They went back to their tongue-in-cheek lyrics from Miserable from 1999’s A Place In The Sun. Anyone who has ever been in a relatable relationship can fully get behind the chorus.
“You make me come
You make me complete
You make me completely miserable”
A. Jay told the crowd that they were “badass” and the band continued with the punchy, Something to Someone before bringing it to back to their newer material, Back With You. It’s great to see a band that still embraces their past while having a full grasp on their future. Jeremy switched from an electric to an acoustic guitar and A. Jay asked the audience if they wanted some campfire music. Fast, which was written with Jeffrey Steele, had lyrics that made you think but there was also a flow that anyone could get behind. The band shared that the song also spent a few weeks at number 1 on the CMT charts.
A. Jay spoke to the crowd again, “Cheers to you Milwaukee and all your family,” prior to the title track, These Are the Days. Lit as a 5-piece, including Kevin Baldes (bass), Ryan Gillmore (guitar) and Evan Kilbourne (drums), really bring these newer songs to life. They have a rich, full sound that helps listeners really want to connect with the music. The last two songs of the set included their American Pie 2 track, The Last Time Again which also included a snippet of The Cars’ Just What I Needed in the middle. Any band’s biggest hit is immediately recognized by the first few notes and Lit’s 1999 hit, My Own Worst Enemy, was no exception. The crowd ate it up. Prior to leaving the stage, the band took a group photo facing the crowd versus the drums, which usually is not the norm. If you look on their social media, you can find the shot. Pretty damn cool.
P.O.D.’s hour long set was full of energy, emotion and plenty of songs the fans in attendance clearly knew and loved. Definitely the heaviest band on the Gen-X bill, the explosive Boom, from 2001’s Satellite album started the night off at 11. Immediately, vocalist Sonny Sandoval had the crowd in his hand. They continued with 1999’s Rock the Party (Off the Hook) and the intensity of the moment kept building. By the third song, Southtown, the dam was about to burst. Between hard hitting Wuv Bernardo on drums and the passion of Sonny’s vocals combined with his bouncing around on stage, arms and mic cord flying, this was one of the most intense, emotional moments I saw from him.
Fans were treated to P.O.D.’s 2017 single, Soundboy Killa. Another song with rapid rhymes, ripping guitar licks from Marcos Curiel and a heavy bass line from Traa Daniels. This lead to another new song. I didn’t recall hearing Sonny mention the title, but part of the lyrics stuck with me. Whatever this song is, it needs to be released ASAP. It had a great vibe and flow and a little insight as the line was, “It’s always Southern California in my head.”
For the iconic Youth of the Nation, three younger girls who were initially side stage, were center stage to help Sonny sing along (in the past, they have had kids from the crowd come up on stage). As much as Sonny tried to get them to sing along and wave their arms back and forth, they were content to stand and watch everything around them.
They picked up the pace again with 2012’s On Fire however, P.O.D.’s songs can easily switch back and forth between a rapping style and clean singing, which was the case with the next two, Satellite and the powerful message behind Beautiful. The night ended with just as much power as it started with. They played a killer, heavy version of U2’s Bullet the Blue Sky and fan favorite, Alive, which included crowd only singing of the ending chorus.
Closing out the night of the four-band bill, Buckcherry’s 75-minute set initially paid homage to their first two albums. Foot-stomping, jumping around, head banging, dancing. All words to describe the three songs out of the gate from 2001’s Time Bomb. Ridin’, Fall and Slammin’ painted a picture of fast-paced chaos where dual guitar playing from Stevie D. and Kevin Roentgen was front and center. It was definitely a great opening formula for a rock show and everyone was feeding off the energy on stage.
They slowed it down for a few minutes with For the Movies from their 1999 self-titled album before amping it back up with the ever popular, and widely known by the first few notes, Lit Up. I’ve seen this song enough times to know, it will bring the same reaction from the crowd every time and Milwaukee was no different. They loved it. Josh handled the role of front man perfectly with a combination of talking and joking around in between songs and really moving around the stage as each song allowed. However, the band really projected the power behind so many great and catchy songs, including their highly infectious Icona Pop cover with a twist, Say F-ck It.
Josh asked how many people saw The New Power Generation earlier in the day and commented that their set was dope. I didn’t see many respond, but I was there. It was pretty awesome. They took everyone back to 2008’s Black Butterfly album with Tired of You, which is another guitar heavy track with catchy lyrics. You couldn’t help but want to sing along.
The band played a bluesy opening for Too Drunk To F-ck before slowing it down once again for one of the most popular songs from their 15 album, Sorry. Josh mentioned they had written 30 songs for a new album that would be out in 2019. They wouldn’t start recording until later this year but fans got to hear a song called The Vacuum. It started out with a heavy dual-guitar tone before lifting slightly with the main vocals. The underlying tone of this song is definitely guitar driven. I’m curious to hear more, that’s for sure.
A song or two from the Confessions album always seems to make it into the set, and Gluttony is usually the most played. Who doesn’t want to hear a song about excess? Again, it’s another easy one to sing along with. In my opinion, aside from Lit Up, Buckcherry’s second most recognized song is Crazy Bitch. For me, I’m always curious what other band’s song will get thrown into the middle. I personally love when bands pay tribute to their favorite songs and BC did not disappoint. Right before the band introductions, they played a teaser of Kool and the Gang’s Jungle Boogie. Funky. As each member was introduced, they played a bit on their own with bassist Kelly Lemieux and drummer Sean Winchester really feeding off each other. The band then went into a bit of Ike and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary before looping back into the end of Crazy Bitch.
The band left the stage but quickly returned for the encore and played Everything, another popular song from the 15 album. Josh told everyone the first night of Gen-X tour was unforgettable. Possibly to the surprise of many, given the name of the stage, they appropriately ended the night with an outstanding version of the Doors’ classic, Roadhouse Blues.
The one thing I realized with all of these bands? They are all still releasing new music. They did not let themselves get stuck as “that band from the nineties.” Sure, they may be known for those particular songs that made them famous, but they are still out there making music, recording and touring. Any band that not only still has something to say, but is able to bring it to the masses, well, that is something that should be supported.